Many marketers believe that the best marketing campaigns are the ones capable of convincing their target audience to buy the advertised product or service. They feel that the ultimate goal of any marketing campaign is to sell. And though they aren’t that far off, thinking like this leaves out some factors that differentiate good advertisement from the best advertisement.
If you take a look at the ads considered to be revolutionary, there is an extra thing that made them that way: they don’t just sell, they point to a new way of communication, offering new symbols and shaping the world we live in. To illustrate this a little bit, here’s a list of 10 marketing campaigns that changed the world while making millions for their brands.
1 – 1947 – De Beers – A Diamond is Forever
If diamonds have the status they enjoy today, it’s entirely because of De Beers and this campaign. By 1938, the diamond company was looking for new ways to boost its decreasing sales. People started to think that diamonds were just a deluxe piece of snobbery and refused to buy them. That’s why the company hired the NW Ayer ad agency: to find a way to appeal to all Americans, regardless of their social status.
The agency worked hard until it hit gold in 1947, the year in which creative Frances Gerety suggested to use the now famous “A diamond is Forever” slogan. The agency wasn’t too crazy about it but given that there were no better alternatives, they went with it in their newest campaign. American people quickly began making a connection between the gemstones with the everlasting nature of love. The rest, as they say, it’s history.
2 – 1954 – The Marlboro Man
One of the most recognizable characters in advertisement, The Marlboro Man took the company from being just a regular woman’s brand to the choice for tough men everywhere. During the 50s, more and more investigations were unveiling the harmful impact of cigarettes on the smokers’ health. That’s why Philip Morris & Co invented their new filtered alternatives and tried to pass them as healthier alternatives. Of course, their “Mild as May” slogan wasn’t going to be too effective with men.
That’s the reason why in 1954 the company introduced the creation of the Leo Burnett Worldwide ad agency: the Marlboro Man. The rough appearance and hardened face of the cowboy was enough to reassure smoking men that Marlboros were perfectly macho alternatives. The character did the trick and sales increased in $15 billion in just 3 years after his first appearance. Marlboro quickly became one of the most widely consumed tobacco brands – especially among men.
3 – 1959 – Volkswagen – Think Small
Doyle Dane Bernbach ad agency was one of the first agencies in the world to go against the grain in the marketing field. While the whole car manufacturing world was boasting of new powerful features and made unbelievable claims about performance and life-changing attributes of their products, the agency believed that a simpler approach was perfect for Volkswagen.
The German company was making smaller and more durable cars and that’s exactly what the agency tried to convey with its message. That’s why they ran a series of ads that openly acknowledged its desire to sell while adopting a self-deprecating tone when addressing the product. People was tired of mass consumerism and with the whole idea of fitting in. This campaign underlined the importance of having a personal voice and expressing individuality. Besides, it killed the grandiose tone of marketing for good and paved the way for advertisers to more relaxed campaigns.
4 – 1962 – Avis – We try harder
It’s OK to bend the truth a little to make a more appealing marketing campaign, right? Well, sometimes. Some other times is best to go with the brutal truth, even when it isn’t as flattering as you may want it to be. That’s the lesson we can all learn from Avis and its “We’re No. 2. We try harder” campaign. Another hit from the agency Doyle Dane Bernbach, this strategy was smashingly successful against all odds.
The thing is: with it, Avis was admitting that they weren’t the consumers’ favorite and that Hertz was undoubtedly the number one. But thanks to the honesty of its tagline, people started seeing the company as different and sympathized with the message. Thus, the company adopted the slogan as their unofficial motto and used it for almost 40 years.
5 – 1979 – Absolut – Absolut bottle
Before this campaign started, Absolut had only 2.5% of the vodka market and was just a brand struggling to make it. But Lars Lindmark, the brand’s CEO, felt they had something good and he wasn’t going to let it die. That something was the product’s quality, of course, but there was something else: the apothecary-like bottle of his vodka. With the help of TBWA agency and against the opinion of practically everyone in the company, Lindmark started shipping his product and marketing it in one of the simplest ways: with that bottle.
Thus, the campaign with Absolut (something) featuring the bottle was launched in 1979 and helped the brand’s rise to the top of the vodka world. Though incredible simple, the campaign went to become the longest uninterrupted ad campaign ever, comprised of more than 1,500 ads with the bottle as its sole standout character.
6 – 1984 – Apple – 1984
1984 was the year used by George Orwell to set his dystopian and paranoid novel of a government-controlled society. Considered to be one of the greatest novels of all times, its story was used by Apple to introduce its Macintosh personal computer during that same year and the ad become one of the most remembered ones thanks to various factors.
The ad was directed by renowned director Ridley Scott, it used the premise of the book the tell the exact opposite (technology is freedom and individuality) and it was aired during the Super Bowl. That’s not all. The ad only mentioned Apple once and it was aired just that one time, making it a memorable occasion for everyone that saw it – and convincing people that computers, after all, were a good thing.
7 – 1984 – Benetton – All the colors of the world
The four brothers that funded Benetton back in 1965 had an idea during the 80s. They felt that their fashion brand should appeal to everyone in the world, so there was no better way to do so than appealing to peace and racial harmony. That’s how they come up with the “All the colors of the world” campaign. Probably this campaign isn’t as remembered as the one into what this concept evolved to: United Colors of Benetton.
That campaign, launched in 1989 after a collaboration between one of the Benetton brothers and photographer Oliviero Toscani, was so bold and different that got everyone talking. The most impressive thing about it is that their photos only featured multicultural people rather than merchandise. Thus, Benetton was able to work a concept around its brand rather than around its products. Today, just the mention of “United colors” brings to memory dozens of photos that underline the importance of ethnical diversity.
8 – 1988 – Nike – Just do it
It’s very hard to overrate the impact of the first Nike ad to feature the “Just do it” slogan. A 80-year old man was jogging through the Golden Gate Bridge like he did every day. It was as simple as that and that simplicity is precisely why the slogan had (and has) so much success. People that always felt outside of athletic activities began thinking that they too could enjoy them. They only had to do it.
Additionally, Nike did a great job in tying such a simple slogan to their products. People wanting to do it just had to pick a pair of running shoes and put themselves to the task. Naturally, whenever that slogan sounded in people’s heads, Nike shows appeared in their minds convincing them that, with them on their feet, they also can become first-class athletes.
9 – 1993 – California Milk Processor Board – Got milk?
One simple question was all it took for milk sales to rise 7% in just one year in California. The genius of the campaign devised by the Goodby Silverstein & Partners agency was that it didn’t focus in the traditional audience for any product. Thus, instead of talking to people who weren’t drinking milk to convince them to start doing it, the campaign addressed existing customers to reinforce the product and make them appreciate it a little more.
Another simple slogan, the ad wasn’t liked at first by some of the executives in the ad agency. They felt that it was just lazy and grammatically incorrect. However, the campaign went ahead and spawned dozens of ads (including one directed by Michael Bay) as well as parodies and cultural references in TV shows, movies and more.
10 – 2012 – Red Bull – Felix Baumgartner space jump
Probably the last revolution in the marketing world was part of a huge Red Bull promotion and involved a really different perspective. With the popularization of the Internet, traditional ads lost terrain and advertisers had to reinvent themselves and the way they deliver their messages. That’s exactly what happened here: Red Bull acted as a sponsor for the jump to Earth from 24 into space by Felix Baumgartner.
Baumgartner became the first man to break the sound barrier without a vehicle and made an incredible jump that was broadcasted by Red Bull through the Internet. 8 million people watched the stream live and social networks went insane with the event, talking about it for hours and days. Thus, the ultimate marketing barrier was broken: the ad wasn’t about the product, the ad was the product itself.
Do you remember any other memorable ad? Tell us which!